Uganda reports 12 million surging cases of latent TB


Uganda is currently grappling with a concerning issue – an alarming surge in cases of latent tuberculosis. According to Dr. Turyahabwe Stavia, an official from the Ministry of Health in Uganda, over 12 million individuals in the country have been diagnosed with latent TB. This revelation was made at a recent workshop focusing on TB care initiatives.

The announcement made by Dr. Turyahabwe on August 22, 2023, sheds light on the importance of addressing the airborne infectious disease, which is now recognized as the 10th leading cause of death worldwide. TB is also known to be the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent.

Uganda reports 12 million surging cases of latent TB
Uganda reports 12 million surging cases of latent TB

During the workshop, Dr. Turyahabwe emphasised that TB has the ability to spread through the air. This means that individuals who are infected can transmit the disease when they cough, talk, breathe, laugh, or sneeze. In addition to the well-known active form of TB that causes someone to become physically ill, there is also a less understood manifestation called latent TB.

This type of TB occurs when a person carries the bacteria, but does not exhibit any symptoms or fall ill. Shockingly, it has been estimated that more than 30% of Ugandans, equivalent to 12 million people, currently have latent TB.

The prevalence of TB in Uganda reflects a larger global concern, as the country is one of the top contributors to the global TB burden. Alongside 29 other countries, Uganda has pledged its commitment to combating TB on a global scale.

On 23 March 2023, the nation participated in the commemoration of International TB Day, vowing to intensify efforts to eliminate the TB epidemic by 2030.

The surging cases of latent TB in Uganda highlight the urgent need for swift action and comprehensive strategies to address the disease.

Despite the fact that latent TB does not present immediate symptoms, it can progress to active TB, putting individuals at risk of severe illness and further transmission of the disease. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritise early detection and treatment of latent TB cases to mitigate the spread of the disease within the population.

How Uganda Can Combat Tuberculosis (TB)

Uganda reports 12 million surging cases of latent TB
Uganda reports 12 million surging cases of latent TB.

Each year, Uganda faces a grave challenge with TB. A staggering 91,000 people contract TB in the east African nation, averaging 240 cases daily. Tragically, approximately 30 lives are lost to this infectious disease every single day.

The gravity of this issue propelled the Ministry of Health in Uganda to develop a comprehensive TB and Leprosy Strategic Plan, with a sharp focus on patient care. In order to combat this pressing issue effectively, it is essential to raise awareness about TB, eliminate the stigma surrounding the disease, and ensure early detection and treatment.

One of the initial steps towards combating TB in Uganda is to educate its population about the disease. While treatment for TB is free in Uganda, a significant portion of the population remains ignorant about the illness. This lack of awareness is capable of impeding the progress made in controlling the spread of the disease.

The dissemination of crucial information about the bacteria has not reached many communities due to the prevailing stigma around TB. It is vital to break this cycle of misinformation and stigmatisation in order to empower individuals, ensuring they can make informed choices regarding their health.

Statistics from 2019 paint a concerning picture, revealing that only 65% of the estimated 86,000 individuals who contracted TB that year received treatment.

Despite the availability of treatment, a substantial number of infected individuals remain untreated, leading to further transmission of the disease within communities.

However, it is encouraging to note that of the individuals who did receive treatment, 72% experienced treatment success. This speaks to the effectiveness of the available treatment options and highlights the importance of early detection and intervention.

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic further aggravated Uganda’s TB crisis. The country experienced a 32% increase in TB cases during this challenging time, partly due to the diversion of healthcare resources towards addressing the pandemic.

To ensure Uganda’s goal of eradicating the TB epidemic by 2030 is realised, the country must redouble its efforts to raise awareness about the disease and strengthen its healthcare infrastructure. By combining efforts to combat both TB.

Elaine Nalikka
Elaine grew up in the DC-Metropolitan area. She went to college at Washington & Jefferson college and graduated in 2016. Since graduating she has worked in criminal law, personal injury law, government contracting, journalism and in the non-profit sector. She is originally from Kampala, Uganda and has ties to the royal family.


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